Friday, March 31, 2006

Tom & Jerry Animators (Pt. 1)

One of the crucial aspects of the Tom & Jerry series by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera was that it had some of theGREATEST acting ever done in any cartoon. The cat and mouse rarely uttered anything besides an earth-shattering scream or priceless 'gulp', but this hugely underrated team of animators brought them to life with such beauty. The four regular animators on this series were Ed Barge, Ken Muse, Ray Patterson, and Irv Spence.

Today's post is a breakdown of what they did throughout the short SLEEPY TIME TOM (1951).

Ken Muse was working on the series from almost the very beginning. Hanna and Barbera always used him for personality shots for these characters to establish a feeling that they really lived and breathed to the audience. I would hazard to say he was the best of them. Here he handles this whole opening with Tom coming home from partying with his buddies.


Irv Spence came over to MGM from Tex Avery's unit at Warner Bros. (I believe he was in Tex's unit at MGM very briefly too, but if you have theories of why he got switched to Bill and Joe's unit, please let me know!). He was well known for creating wild animation, and is responsible for many of the great eye-ball popping reations in Tom & Jerry shorts. He also loved handling Spike the bulldog, according to Mark Kausler. Spence is my personal favorite Tom & Jerry animator, and one of my favorites in general. Here he handles this scene with Tom being confronted by Mammy. It has a wonderful sense of looseness for a 1950s short.


Ed Barge began his work on the Tom & Jerry series in the mid-1940s. He draws them very conservatively (and dare I say, 'cutesy', particularly in his earliest owrk), and they tend to jerk from pose to pose, but still always establishing a good sense of characterization, similar to Friz Freleng's animators at Warners. Barge handles Jerry's first two attempts at getting Tom to fall asleep.


Ray Patterson and his brother Don had a long career in animation. I think Ray's best work is in the Tom & Jerry films, personally. Ray is able to handle lots of loose movement (though not as wildly as Spence would), and does a great thing with his characters where they purse their lips at random moments. See for yourself in this scene with the radio lullaby.


I'd publicly like to thank Mike Russo for helping me become familiar with these wonderful animators. He is a very intelligible fellow who puts my Tom & Jerry obsession (which is quite large on its own) to shame. He also requested Ray Patterson's scene of Jerry disguised as a cannibal (voiced by Paul Frees) confronting Tom from HIS MOUSE FRIDAY (1951). I'm more than happy to oblige, Mike!


I also appreciate those who have e-mailed me willing to help me out! Thanks, guys! Stay tuned tomorrow for part two of my Tom & Jerry tribute!

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